Information for New and Expecting Parents
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Great Pocket Guide for Baby’s First Year:
Why Your Child Needs a Pediatrician
Children’s health care needs are different from adults’. Pediatricians are trained to prevent and manage health problems in newborns, infants, children, teens, and young adults. As children get older, they often find that they trust their pediatricians because they have known one another for so many years.
Pediatricians are Devoted to Children’s Health
Pediatricians spend as much as 3 to 6 years in pediatric training after medical school. That equals up to 24 times more training in the care of children than other physicians who receive an average of 3 additional months of pediatric training after medical school.
Cutting Edge Knowledge
Pediatricians see only children and youth. Constant changes in medicine can make it difficult to stay up to date. Pediatricians stay current by concentrating their efforts on changes in medicine affecting children.
Quality Primary Care
Pediatricians are trained to provide comprehensive care for children, including preventive care. Pediatricians often work in teams with other professionals, including nurse practitioners, to provide high-quality, cost-effective primary care. High-quality care leads to better outcomes for children and reduced costs for families and society.
Pediatricians Specialize in the Care of Children and Youth
Pediatricians are trained to:
- Help you determine healthy lifestyles for your child and useful ways to role model your choices.
- Offer advice to prevent illness and injuries.
- Provide early and appropriate care of acute illness to prevent its progression.
- Treat life-threatening childhood conditions requiring intensive care.
- Guide you in anticipating your child’s needs from newborn to age 21.
As part of their extensive training, pediatricians are experienced in the physical, emotional, and social development of children. Children may be too young or shy to talk, so pediatricians understand the importance of listening carefully to your child, and to you. Pediatricians answer your questions, helping you to understand and promote your child’s healthy development. Pediatricians also address issues affecting a child’s family and home environment.
Pediatricians understand that children are not simply small adults.
They often present different symptoms from adults. They may need different prescriptions or treatments than adults. Pediatricians are specially trained to recognize the importance of these differences, especially with young children and newborns.
Pediatricians Are Great Advocates!
The American Academy of Pediatrics is highly respected for its child advocacy work. The Academy works to:
- Assure universal health care for all children from birth to 21 years and for all pregnant women.
- See that all immunizations are fully paid for by state and private insurance.
- Reduce the number of intentional and unintentional injuries, including those associated with alcohol and substance abuse.
- Promote healthy lifestyles for children and adolescents.
- Promote health education in schools.
- Increase access to health care for all children, including those with special needs and the homeless.
- Assure health and safety standards in child care settings.
By selecting a Board Certified Pediatrician, you will have chosen the highest level of medical care for your child.
Pediatricians Are Experts in Children’s Health
Pediatricians are specially trained to treat and manage your child’s health care needs and other issues, including the following:
- Growth and development
- Physical fitness
- Emotional or family problems
- Learning and other school problems
- Preventing and dealing with drug abuse
- Puberty and other teen concerns
- TV, the Internet, and other media
Pediatricians also work with child care centers, schools, and after-school programs to help keep your child healthy while at school. Also, if your child has a very special or complex problem, your pediatrician can refer your child to the exact subspecialist required.
In addition, your pediatrician may be able to advise you about alternative, complementary, and integrative medicine and folk remedies, and which treatments or therapies are safe for children. It is important that you tell your pediatrician about all treatments your child receives.
How to Find a Pediatrician
You may also find information on local pediatricians from a nearby hospital, medical school, or your county medical society. Even if your health insurance requires you to choose a pediatrician from their approved network of doctors, they may have additional information about them to help you choose.
Do not wait until your child is sick or needs a checkup to choose a pediatrician. Even if you have recently moved, are changing insurance, or are having a baby, it is best to find a pediatrician as soon as you can.
- Do your research. Ask other doctors, family members, friends, relatives, and coworkers for a referral. When someone suggests a pediatrician, ask them the following questions about the doctor:
- Are your medical questions answered by the pediatrician or office nurses?
- Do your children like that pediatrician?
- Does the pediatrician talk with the children, and not just the parents?
- Does the pediatrician seem to know about current advances in pediatric medicine?
- How helpful and friendly is the office staff?
- How well does the office manage your phone calls?
- How does the office handle emergencies; can your child be seen as soon as possible?
- Can sick children be seen on the same day?
- What is the average time you wait before seeing the pediatrician for a scheduled office visit?
- Make a visit. After you have a list of names, you may want to visit each pediatrician’s office. Check the waiting area to see if it is clean. (But realize that children have been in it all day long.) You can see if the office staff seems friendly and helpful. If staff members are not too busy, ask a few select questions.
- What are the office hours?
- Is emergency coverage available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
- When is the best time to call with routine questions?
- Is there an after-hours answering service?
- When is payment due?
- How does the office handle billing?
- How are insurance claims handled?
- Is this pediatrician accepting new patients with my insurance or managed care plan?
- To what hospital does the doctor admit patients?
- Is the doctor board certified through the ABP?
- Is the doctor a FAAP?
- Who will care for my child if my pediatrician is not available?
These are just sample questions. Ask other questions about things that are important to you.
- Follow your instincts. After your first visit with the pediatrician, ask yourself: Does this pediatrician listen, answer questions, and seem interested? Above all, ask yourself if you like and trust this person. If your instincts say “no,” talk with the next pediatrician on your list.
*Adapted from handouts ‘You and Your Pediatrician’ and ‘How Special is Your Child?’ from the American Academy of Pediatrics
Recommended Books and Websites for New and Expecting Parents:
- Caring for Your Baby and Child: Birth to Age 5 by the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby! By Dr. Ari Brown and Denise Fields
- On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo
- Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp